Thursday, July 12

Calculating Identity: Career Distinction

After visiting Career Distinction and running its Online Identity Calculator on Tom Cruise yesterday (check the comments on the post), we started to wonder what would happen if we plugged in more people, ranging from notable bloggers to CEO bloggers to CEOs with no direct social media presence.

The mix is pretty eclectic, but it provides some interesting results. Keep in mind that our formula is less than scientific: we used the calculator (beta) to establish whether these individuals have an online identity that matches up with what seems to be their desired personal brand. Since the calculator only offers generalized definitions, we summed up the first three pages of a Google search.

Seth Godin — Digitally Distinct, 10
Desired: A bestselling author, entrepreneur, and agent of change.
Online: A leading marketing author and popular business blogger.

We picked Godin mostly because we had a hunch he would set the high water mark and, no surprise, he did. While there seems to be some slight variation between his desired and online brand, it’s only because the Godin brand overshadows the company he founded, Squiddo. In sum, his brand trends toward top online marketing expert/author (rather than entrepreneur and agent of change) and there is nothing wrong with that.

Johnathan Swartz — Digitally Distinct, 10
Desired: An approachable, likeable, creative, and unconventional CEO.
Actual: An approachable, likeable, creative, and unconventional CEO.

Swartz is the top CEO blogger for a reason. There is virtually no distinction between his online identity and his desired brand — he always presents compelling non-techno babble information to help businesses understand that technological advancements mean market opportunities as opposed to business threats. He does a near perfect job setting the cultural tone of Sun Microsystems and his views mirror what we’ve said for two years.

Jeffrey Immelt — Digitally Distinct, 9
Desired: A hardworking strategist who helped turn General Electric around.
Actual: A relentless workaholic whose biggest hope is everyone else can keep up.

Given Immelt devotes 12 weeks to foreign travel as one of our nation’s leading advocates for globalization, we’re not surprised he doesn’t have time to establish a direct social media presence. Still, as a Fortune 500 company CEO (top 10), others present who he is fairly well, with one small caveat — as much as he is admired, skeptics water down his ideas (despite results), leading us to believe he could score a 10 with a direct presence on the Internet.

Alan Meckler — Digitally Distinct, 9
Desired: A serious business executive and aggressive online CEO.
Actual: A straightforward executive who calls it like he sees it.

As one of the top 10 ten CEO bloggers, we’re not to surprised to see Meckler also scores near the top. There are some identity discrepancies, primarily because his writing and interview style come across as a tough-as-nails CEO when he’s much more approachable than that. Also, his view of Jupiterimages is obviously a bit biased when compared to his view of competitors, but we wouldn’t expect otherwise.

Scott Baradell — Digitally Distinct, 9
Desired: Accomplished brand strategist with corporate communications and journalism experience.
Actual: Journalist turned public relations strategist, which might explain why he never takes the industry too seriously.

With Baradell’s emphasis on public relations, media analysis, and blog entertainment, his online identity tends to shift away from brand strategist. But where his online personality works is that he is unquestionably adept at keeping things interesting. For evidence: check Media Orchard’s R Rating and his anagram post plug of Occam’s RazR among others.

Geoff Livingston — Digitally Distinct, 9
• Desired: A leading marketing expert and top-ranked marketing blogger/author.
• Actual: A seasoned marketing pro, social media analyst, and blogging guru.

For the most part, Livingston has achieved his desired online identity, especially since he has already been recognized as an area marketing blog guru by The Washington Post. Without question, he has some great posts that often cross over into legitimate trade journalism. With a book set for release and several post serials worth reading, he’s coming close to the tipping point. If there is one area to improve, it’s remembering that too much focus on others won’t brand you as a leader.

The Recruiting Animal — Digitally Distinct. 8 (7)
• Desired: The most outrageous and entertaining recruiting blogger and online radio host in history.
• Actual: The most outrageous and entertaining recruiting blogger and online radio host in history.

There is little doubt that The Recruiting Animal has achieved his online identity. He is a classic example of being positively infamous, with his stage name often appearing where you least expect it (even in places his peers might have missed). What’s equally interesting to me is that if we plug in The Recruiting Animal’s real name, his score drops to Digitally Dabbling, but all of the information about him remains on target (just slightly more serious).

Les Moonves — Digitally Disastrous, 8
Desired: A seasoned old school programmer who became CEO of a leading mass media company.
Actual: A CEO with a dated programming vision who calls the shots with little explanation.

Given our coverage of the Jericho cancellation protest (and reinstatement), we noticed that Moonves tends to leave people completely confused. On one hand, he wants CBS to lead the digital charge, but then doesn’t give new media much credit. He dumped Imus and dumbed down CBS News despite what ratings say, yet argued that the original cancellation of Jericho was based only on ratings. Given he has no direct social media presence, his brand is shaped almost entirely by mixed messages that paint him up as a CEO who likes to say “because I said so.”

David Neeleman — Digitally Disastrous, 8
Desired: A relentless innovator who challenged the airline industry to do better.
Actual: An ousted CEO trying to prove his relevance after a company crisis.

I read Neeleman’s blog because I admire what he has accomplished. Some people don’t get this in our coverage of the JetBlue crisis. They won’t get it here either as we’ve noticed a dramatic personal brand shift since his departure as CEO of JetBlue. He insists he is comfortable with the change despite several interviews that suggest otherwise. It doesn’t help that "Montgomery Burns" has taken over his flight log. It’s supposed to be funny, but only it reinforces questionable choices in the face of crisis.

Jason Goldberg — Digitally Disastrous, 7
• Desired: A successful entrepreneur who is leading innovator of the online recruiting community.
• Actual: A young, brash executive who gets caught up in online controversies and spins like there is no tomorrow.

There’s a boatload of information on the Web about Goldberg. Unfortunately, most of it doesn’t seem to have any relevance to what he wants to express about himself or his company. Most of it is about blog controversies, blatant spin, and a sometimes questionable management style. Other times, however, Goldberg even departs from this identity too, which makes people wonder how seriously they should take him. The odd attack-feint retreat-attack-retreat tactic doesn’t help.

Amanda Chapel — Digitally Disastrous, 7
• Desired: A mysterious and provocative foil for the online public relations community.
• Actual: A collective of anonymous writers who believe all publicity is good publicity.

There is a lot of information about the collective Chapel on the Web, but more and more of it has little relevance to what they want to express about themselves. As time goes on, it will be nearly impossible to remove all the irrelevant information. Some people have asked about my interest in Chapel, since they come up on my blog every now and again. Truth be told, I’m more interested in why Steve Rubel, Mark Ragan, and even Shel Holtz continue to feed the Chapel credibility. Is the public relations industry that boring or afraid to debate that it needs an anonymous ghost to do it for them?

Add it up and all of this seems to reinforce the most basic premise of my Fragile Brand Theory. You see, in almost every case listed above, without exception, the closer their personal and online brands are to the reality of who they are, the greater their measure of success in maintaining that brand. It also demonstrates, in a couple of instances, how one handles crisis or controversy can also enhance or erode brand credibility almost overnight.

In closing, just to be fair, we ran my identity too. While there is some discrepancy depending on how you type in my name, I came out with a Digitally Distinct 8 and Copywrite, Ink. with a Digitally Distinct 9. This stands to reason: establishing an online identity for the company ahead of me is by design.


Unknown on 7/12/07, 1:07 PM said...

Hello Rich,

Very clever. Since we launched the online ID calculator at Career Distinction three days ago, we have had 25,000 people use it. We didn’t know it would become so popular so fast. Of course, we assumed that most people were using it to determine their own online profile.

While testing the algorithm, we put hundreds of executives, celebrities and our clients to the test to ensure that our formula worked; and we know that the coaches that we are certifying in online identity development will certainly be using it to assess the online IDs of their clients. But your blog post is the first evidence I have seen of people using the calculator to evaluate the online profiles of others. Bravo to you!

William Arruda

Rich on 7/12/07, 1:24 PM said...


Thanks so much for dropping by; we ran it on Cruise and fell in love with it! How fun, and surprisingly accurate, even for those who do not support blogs.

I didn't include everything I wanted to (my gosh, it's a very long post as it is), but the resulting data and post research to try and understand why ... well, bar none, it's a great tool that provides an excellent precursor to those who want to ensure their online identity matches what they desire.

In addition, although I did not include it here, we also ran the program on several dozens companies as well. It works equally well.

The bravo belongs you! Very well done.

All my best,

Sweet Tea on 7/12/07, 1:47 PM said...

Good description of Moonves.
As for my online persona it says:
Your online identity score is 8.8 out of a possible score of 10.

You are on your way to becoming distinct. Keep up the good work. You'll want to especially focus on increasing the relevance of your results. Read Career Distinction and do the related exercises to define what it is that you want to be communicating and make a specific plan for continuing to build your brand in bits and bytes

The only problem I see is the last question because I don't aspire to any of those listed. Thanks. Great article.

Rich on 7/12/07, 1:55 PM said...

Hey JS,

I will send you an e-mail about your results this weekend. :) I think what the program turned up is relevant for you long term, you just don't know it, um, yet. (Grin.)

All my best,

Ike on 7/12/07, 2:12 PM said...

I scored a 10. But it's not like I have a great deal of competition for the name.

Rich on 7/12/07, 2:31 PM said...

Hey Isaac,

I agree with you on the name. :) To make it more worthwhile, you might want to consider how many posts are relevant to your desired online identity beyond your name. For example, most of the Goldberg posts are about Goldberg, but not all of them (on the first three pages) are who he wants to be known as.

What is written about us vs. what we are trying to project (from a career or professional perspective) is where the program works best. For instance, I may not count all (but perhaps some because ancestory might count a bit) of the ancestry pages as being relevant to your personal brand, if that makes sense. :)

All my best,

Unknown on 7/12/07, 3:24 PM said...


Opinion about opinion, blovation about intellectual flatulence. Seriously Rich, I know you are not aware of it but it is the collective YOU that is the failure of Web 2.0. See, we live in an era where volume trumps value. Add to that, the Web by definition networks together our least common denominator, i.e. the Baradells, Livingstons and Beckers. It’s a problem.

But there is good news. Two things: 1) you are still obviously a little freelance hack; and 2) it is always easier for us to shoot at flocks.


- Amanda

Rich on 7/12/07, 4:16 PM said...


Wow. Thank you for your opinion, but if it is an attempt to disparage me, it is grossly misplaced and not very effective.

I wrote a little less about you, despite the sheer volume of posts that dismiss or attempt to discredit you, and a little more about the public relations industry, which seems to want you around to raise debates that are either missed or intentionally ignored or simply known to be terribly misguided, thereby lending a largely anonymous persona much more credibility that it probably deserves.

There is no criticism about you on my part (though my some of my team members may feel differently). And although I've learned you've done a few underhanded things since your appearance, my personal observation is that you exist because the industry wants you to exist, that you sometimes encourage them to think (even when your argument doesn't hold), and with the exception of overwriting your prose and calling people names, you can sometimes turn a phrase.

In terms of your brand, it's not my fault that your decision to be anonymous distracts from your ideas, which is the cause of your brand challenge, especially when you present ideas that claim the Internet needs be controlled and policed against, well, no disrespect intended, people like you.

I know other ghosts besides you, Chapel, and most of them know or have learned not all anonymous bloggers need to force their egos upon the world but rather can earn respect based on the quality of the contributions. I'm sorry that sometimes you don't see that way.

Ergo, if anything, I would think you might be happy that I even added an eleventh spot to include the distinctiveness of an anonymous blogger. But, as I said, I know several, so next time I'll make a better choice.

All my best,

Sweet Tea on 7/12/07, 4:33 PM said...

" a little freelance hack"? Well, you mentioned her & I was curious so I was going to look her up to see what she writes. I read this and decided not to waste my time. Sounds like sour grapes. Maybe she can aspire to being well-mannered one day?
I'll look forward to your email.

Unknown on 7/12/07, 4:56 PM said...


Woody Allen has a quote that we often use here when dealing with your station: "It's nothing that a fist full of Prozac and a baseball couldn't cure."

Frankly, I think that Prozac would be squandered on your reeducation.

- Amanda

Rich on 7/12/07, 5:12 PM said...

Well Amanda,

Andy Warhol has a quote even more fitting for comments such as yours. "So what?"

Really, I think I like it better when the more senior Chapel visits, but please don't mistake that as an invitation. If you have nothing to lend, then don't. I'll spare your last comment, but won't concern myself too much with removing personal jabs if that is all you want to offer rather than offering where I have misidentified your brand?

All my best,

JS ... Sorry about that. I added Chapel only for the reason stated: I was curious to see how an anonymous brand stacks up. Most do not, and now some people might see why not.

Dan Schawbel on 7/12/07, 5:39 PM said...

Rich nice job here, as William pointed out. It's great to see how everyone measures up. I ended up getting a 9 on it! Pretty interesting stuff.

Rich on 7/12/07, 6:09 PM said...

Thanks Dan,

And great score! One of things I've noticed about Career Distinction's online calculator is that it helps place additional emphasis where the emphasis needs to be.

So very often, people engaged in social media (me too at times) have a tendency to focus too much on traffic, page rank, and search engine dominance. But this tool reminds us that we must always remember that how we brand people (if it applies), products, and companies matters most.

All my best,

Geoff_Livingston on 7/12/07, 7:54 PM said...

Thanks, Rich. You never know how you are really doing until you hear it from someone you respect. Fascinating analysis, I'll have to check out Career Distinction in the near future.

Scott Baradell on 7/13/07, 7:11 AM said...

Thanks, Rich. In my case, I'd say I give so much branding guidance in my work that generally the last thing I want to do is write about it on the blog. The blog started as something for fun and I've kind of shoehorned it into a way to advance my "personal brand." So, all things considered, I'm grateful to get a 9! Take care.

Rich on 7/13/07, 7:12 AM said...

My pleasure Geoff,

I see great potential in what you're doing. For now though, I'll have to keep it short as I need to finish that power point presentation for the luncheon I'm speaking at, um, oh my, that's ... today. j/k.


Rich on 7/13/07, 8:19 AM said...

Hey Scott,

My pleasure. And hey, your blog works so don't go changing. It would be pretty boring to read about branding everyday instead of being inspired to wonder about whether my G-rating is a good thing on one day and read razor sharp communication truths the next.

All my best,


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